It would not be an overstatement if I say that we have had a long-term (culinary)affair with french fries. In the US, on average, we end up eating over 25 lbs of fries every year. WOW! It's no a surprise that potatoes rank as the highest-consumed vegetable in the US; most of that in the form of fries . Come to think of it, french fries offer an irresistible combination of crunchy (texture), salty (taste), and fatty (fried) to our palates. But, the health effect of these easily and cheaply available packet-full of fries is not so scrumptious. Frying is the worst cooking method to prepare potatoes as it can potentially create carcinogens (keep reading). But you can replace those unhealthy french fries with these baked sweet potato fries. These are super easy and quick to make and you don't have to worry about eating carcinogens with your fries.
Fried potatoes may contain carcinogens
First let's simplify the word carcinogen. It is defined as a substance that can cause or help grow cancer (cells). The culprit in this case is a chemical known as ACRYLAMIDE. Here is the skinny on the link between acrylamide and french fries. It seems that while raw potatoes (and a few other starchy foods) don't contain acrylamide, the process of cooking potatoes (and certain other foods) at high temperatures (higher than 250°F) results in forming the chemical. According to a 2002 study from Swedish scientists, published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, fried potatoes--chips and french fries had the highest amount of acrylamide . The bad news about acrylamide is that it has been shown to cause cancer in animal studies. So one way to decrease acrylamide exposure would be to eat less amount of commercially-prepared french fries. The other is to use a cooking method--like baking-- that minimizes the amount of acrylamide.
Acrylamide is not the only concern when eating french fries out of home. Most restaurants reheat and reuse the oil for frying food, including french fries. Even at home, many of us adopt the same practice. However, such a practice produces trans fatty acids in the reused oil . Trans fatty acids are super bad for heart health and have been known to increase low-density lipoproteins (LDL)--the kind of cholesterol that end up clogging arteries.
Let's make the baked sweet potato fries
Most of the time, I choose sweet potatoes over regular potatoes because: (1) sweet potatoes add to the complexity of the taste and (2) sweet potatoes are a tad healthier option to the regular potatoes. The process is quite simple, just cut the sweet potatoes lengthwise into 1/4" think sticks. Add all the spices and garlic and mix till the potatoes are well coated. The secret ingredient in these fries is CORNMEAL. You can totally substitute cornmeal with masa flour or polenta but not with corn starch. The cornmeal coating produces "the crunch factor" in these baked sweet potato fries.
You can use ketchup with these baked sweet potato fries, but they taste awesome with:
It is best to enjoy these fries right out of the oven. And, if you are thinking about your kids not liking the baked version, be at peace. My 13-year-old likes them the best in our family. Enjoy!
Baked Sweet Potato Fries
- 2 sweet potatoes* (medium, ~14 oz)
- 1.5 tbsp avocado oil
- 2 tbsp corn meal
- 1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/8 tsp black pepper (ground)
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (can sub with chili pepper)
- 1 tsp garlic (minced, add 1 tsp for very garliky fries)
- Wash sweet potatoes under running water. Peel the potatoes and cut lengthwise in 1/4"- thick sticks. Preheat oven to 425°F. In a wide-mouth bowl, add sweet potato fries with all other ingredients. Mix with hand to coat fries with spices, corn meal, and garlic. You can also mix by adding all the ingredients in a zip-lock bag and shaking it for a few minutes till fries are well coated.
- Spread fries in a single layer on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for 18-20 minutes turning fries upside down with a heatproof spatula after 9 minutes**. Just as with regular (fried) french fries, these baked sweet potatoes fries taste great when served right out of the oven. Enjoy!
- United States Department of Agriculture and National Potato Council.
- Bhardwaj, S., Passi, S. J., Misra, A., Pant, K. K., Anwar, K., Pandey, R. M., Kardam, V., Effect of heating/reheating of fats/oils, as used by Asian Indians, on trans fatty acid formation. Food Chemistry, Volume 212, 1 December 2016, Pages 663-670